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O.C. unemployment up slightly in January

While the slight decline in the jobless rate is seasonally appropriate, annual numbers reflect growth

by caitlin adamsPublished: March 12, 2012 10:00 AM

A decline in the number of Orange County jobs at the beginning of the year led to a bump in the local unemployment rate, according to the latest statistics from the California Employment Development Department. O.C.’s unemployment rate came in at 8 percent for the first month of 2012, up 0.2 percent from the previous month.

The small increase in unemployment is to be expected at the beginning of the year, due to temporary positions in sales and retail that were added during the holiday season now being cut.

What struck Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor for the Orange County Business Council, was the magnitude of the number of jobs that declined over the previous month. The area saw a total drop of 29,400 jobs in January, including 9,400 positions in trade, transportation and utilities, and 5,500 in professional and business services.

“It’s pretty confusing. There’s no way we lost close to 30,000 jobs in one month,” Walrod said. He attributes the high numbers of job declines to the Dept. of Labor’s annual revision process, and expects that the numbers are likely to be revised downward in the next report. “At the federal level, we had a very positive jobs report," he said. "I think we’ll see job growth in Orange County when we receive the February numbers in about two weeks.”

On a year-over-year analysis, the picture is much more positive. The current rate is well below the January 2011 rate of 9.2 percent. The county gained more than 11,000 over the past twelve months.

Walrod said the important part of this report is not to focus on the short-term drop, but rather to look at Orange County’s position in terms of annual growth. “I’d focus more on the big gains, the year-over-year numbers,” he said.

The unemployment rate has been declining in Orange County for the last six months; in December, the rate dipped below 8 percent for the first time in almost three years, when it showed 7.8 percent, which was mirrored in Feb. 2009. Now the local unemployment rate has crept back up to 8 percent, although Orange County is still doing much better than its neighbors, the state and the nation as a whole.

January’s unemployment rate for California came in at 11.3 percent, while nationwide unemployment was up to 8.8 percent. In Los Angeles County, the rate was 12.1 percent in January; Riverside County recorded a 12.5 percent rate, and San Bernardino County was 12.3 percent.

Overall, Walrod said that Orange County is positioned for gains in employment in coming months. “I think we’re growing jobs, it’s steady growth, and we have been outpacing the state and the nation. It’s good to see that the state and the nation are growing too, and that will help Orange County as well.”

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